Thursday, December 4, 2008

Xúp Măng Cua (Asparagus & Crab Soup)

Xúp măng cua (asparagus & crab soup) is a classic Vietnamese soup, although I think it is also served in many Chinese restaurants. It's so classic that it is featured in the Williams-Sonoma Soups cookbook, with non-Asian ingredients, like sherry wine vinegar... but I digress.

This is one of my favourite soups. I grew up eating it with canned, white asparagus soup. I think this is how it was originally made because canned, white asparagus were still being used when I had this soup in Vietnam. Once fresh asparagus was more readily available, my mom switched to the fresh ones. I mostly make this soup with fresh green asparagus. If it's my lucky day, I will buy the fresh white ones when they are the same prices as the green ones! But I actually like the colour contrast with the green asparagus.

One distinct ingredient that I learned from my mother is using tapioca pearls. This is my mom's own unique touch. She adds them to help thicken the soup instead of cornstarch. She got the idea from a local soup she grew up with: xúp bột bán (tapioca and crab soup). The tapioca pearls add another texture to the soup that I really like.

This is not actually a soup that is meant to be a meal. However, I have made it and eaten it as a meal. I am such a soup person!

Xúp Măng Cua (Asparagus & Crab Soup)
This is not actually a soup that is meant to be a meal. However, I have made it and eaten it as a meal. I am such a soup person! Wandering Chopstick's version also uses baby corn.

* oil
* ½ onion
* crab, fresh or frozen, or imitation crab (pollock)
* salt and pepper, to taste
* crab or lobster paste (optional for added flavour)
* 4 cups of chicken broth, (I use homemade chicken broth with more Asian flavours, like ginger.)
* 1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1"
* handful of tapioca pearls (optional)
* 1 egg, beaten

Heat a bit of oil in a soup pot.
Add onion and cook until softened.
Add the crab (and crab paste if using).
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the broth and increase the heat.
Once the broth is boiling, add asparagus and tapioca pearls.
Once the asparagus and tapioca pearls (they should become clear) are cooked , bring the broth down to a simmer.
Add egg mixture while swirling the soup. (Wandering Chopsticks has a great picture.)

Sauteeing onion, crab and crab paste.

Adding tapioca pearls.

The tricky part: adding beaten eggs.

Finished soup.

White asparagus in each spoon full.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Sometimes my aunts do it with tapioca pearls too. Wonder if it's another central thing? :)

Gastronomer said...

Definitely a central thing ;-) My family had this soup as our first course during Thanksgiving. Our version doesn't use crab paste, and thus the soup isn't red in color. Aren't differences fun to compare? I like comparing insults best.

Miss.Adventure said...

WC: And I thought it was just my mom! I will have to ask her to make xup bot ban. It's such a funny soup...

G: My mom just adds the crab paste for extra flavour. Probably because crab is expensive... in Canada, anyway. She used to buy canned lobster paste, but she can't find it anymore!

tigerfish said...

Adding these pearls to savory soup is new to me :)

Came from broccoli round up!

Miss.Adventure said...

Tigerfish: It is unusual but if you have some around, you should try it! Thanks for coming by!